Ted Bromfield '68

 

Law of The Land

%281%left%The first inkling Ted Bromfield ’68 had that his future might lie somewhere other than Maine was when, during his senior year investigation of graduate schools, he came across a photo of a sunny beach, palm trees waving, blue sky beckoning in the background.

It was a typical January in Waterville, and the photo was of the California Western School of Law campus in San Diego. The Kittery Point native, who had graduated from Traip Academy in Kittery and never traveled far, was intrigued. Though he also was admitted to law schools at Boston University, Boston College and Harvard, Cal Western made an attractive offer. Bromfield went west.

He’s never found reason to move. Right out of law school, he was hired by the San Diego city attorney’s office, where he worked his way up to senior deputy city attorney, the top non-elective position in the office. Bromfield heads the environmental division, a big deal in a sprawling city of 1.3 million—exactly the same population as Maine, he notes. San Diego lies between the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Quinaca Mountains 30 miles to the east. Tijuana, Mexico, is to the south. “It’s an absolutely gorgeous place,” he said.

%280%right%Bromfield got his start just like the other 130 lawyers working for the city, prosecuting traffic cases and drunken-driving offenses. “In private practice, you might have to wait years for your first jury trial. Here, I faced a jury my first day on the job,” he said.

The environmental division proved a good place for a rising young lawyer to make his mark. Under the landmark federal Clean Water Act of 1972, written by Sen. Edmund Muskie, San Diego, like all large municipalities, was required to treat sewage to federal standards. San Diego believed it could comply with the law more efficiently and cheaply, and Bromfield was in charge of guiding the city’s mammoth lawsuit against EPA through the federal court system. The litigation lasted from 1988 to 1995, but San Diego emerged with its own National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. That saved the city an estimated $4 billion in construction costs.

Not that environmental compliance has been a routine matter. Tijuana shares the same ecosystem, and it has taken an international commission to sort out the conflicting national legal and political systems. One result: a giant treatment plant built right on the border.

While impressive, the plant is still inadequate for Mexico’s demands, “but the water is much better than it was,” Bromfield said. “You have to understand that it’s a different world there.” While San Diego’s million-plus population is well documented, “Tijuana has never had an accurate census. We have no idea how many people live there.”

This year has been a particularly challenging one in San Diego. In September, three city councilors were indicted on federal corruption charges (the city attorney’s office is independent and uninvolved), and in October devastating wildfires struck the county’s eastern reaches.

Bromfield had decided earlier that it was time to move on and told his boss that he plans to leave following completion of an intricate piece of litigation pending in court. He has no particular plans beyond hanging out his own shingle and, perhaps, anticipating retirement.

He has raised a daughter, who lives in San Diego and is the executive director of a nonprofit agency. “She’s very politically involved,” he said admiringly. She tried working in Washington, “but she couldn’t stand the summers” and soon returned to California.

In the meantime, there’s more work to be done. “After thirty-two years on the job, you think you’ve seen it all, but it’s not so,” Bromfield said. “There’s a new challenge almost every day.” —Doug Rooks ’76